Phenomenally talented driver Kyle Weatherman is taking the racing world by storm. Consistently running out front on the track, people wonder how such a young driver made his way to this arena with all of the experience needed to make him so successful.
As with every overnight success, it didn’t really happen overnight. Years of competing came before Kyle grew into the polished and level-headed driver he is today. And his start in this sport wasn’t thoroughly planned out either. In fact, Kyle’s introduction to competitive racing began with a trip to a go-kart shop that didn’t go as planned. His love of racing was at first an extension of his father’s passion for the sport. His dad, Daryn Weatherman, is close friends with Brian Maine, who is related to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver David Ragan. As Kyle explains it, “We all went to a go-kart shop when I was eight years-old and my brother was six years-old. We were not really thinking about getting into it at that point – we just wanted to look at some things. That day we ended up leaving with two go-karts and tires. We started racing the very next weekend.” With a laugh he adds, “My dad blames Brian.”
Around the same time, another family was getting started in the sport as well. Daryn Weatherman was passing his passion for racing down to Kyle and his younger brother, Clayton. They met and quickly became friends with Gary Stray and his sons, Keegan and Charlie. “We did a lot with the Stray family,” Kyle shares. “The four of us did everything together. Our dads shared the same philosophy that we should know everything we could about our vehicles and how to take care of them. At eight years-old, instead of being outdoors on the playground, I spent time in the shop with Clayton, Keegan, Charlie, and our dads learning everything we could about how to clean the go-karts, change out the gears, and keep our go-karts running at their peaks. It was time that I cherished.”
Kyle takes a long view of how that shaped his career and his own racing philosophies today. He still works in the shop and spends a lot of time working side-by-side with his crew team. He says, “One of the keys to success is that I work in the shop with my team. That gives us the opportunity to not only fine-tune the car together, but it gives us a great working communication. I can give my feedback, they can give me theirs. My being there shows them my level of dedication. I will work as hard as they do. I love working in the shop and I know a lot about the car and I know changes that need to happen with the car.” Additionally, that helps him build a trust bond with his crew chief. When it comes down to race day, that communication becomes invaluable. “Let’s say on race day, for whatever reason during the race I lose focus. I need my crew chief to help get me back on track. I take racing very seriously because it’s my future. He keeps my head in the game. He knows my reactions and keeps my head in the right direction, I guess you could say. That bond was built in the shop. We have learned to deal with each other in a very real way outside of just race day.”
At age 10, Kyle moved on to Bandolero racing. Bandoleros are smaller and easier to handle than the Legends cars and they are a great way for a young driver to transition from go-karts to Legends cars. Kyle spent two years racing Bandoleros. He views that time as “very important because how you start your career and what you learn early on will make the road you’re going down easier or harder.” Those two years were a key time in his development as a driver. They helped him become observant and learn how to make educated decisions on the track and in the shop while prepping his vehicle for race day. He won the national championship in Bandolero racing.
At age 12, Kyle moved to Legends cars. He raced Legends through age 15. In addition, he raced IMCA Sport Modified cars in Texas with Michael Harper as his crew chief. In Legends, he raced a handful of late model races and, at 12 years-old, competed in the Legends Million Dollar Race. He handily finished fifth in that race. That year, Kyle was the only 12 year-old competing, making him the youngest driver on the track. That did not phase Kyle at all. In fact, it motivated him. He won the Legends National Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and became the youngest driver up until that point to claim victory in that race.
When Kyle was 15, he made the move to ARCA. Kyle recalls his first race in ARCA: “I had run tests a few times, so the whole experience was not entirely new to me. But during that first race, there was a lot going on. There was mass chaos in the garage area and a lot of commotion in the tech area. It was a lot to process. Michael Harper was again my crew chief and he knew just what to do and say to calm me down. I can’t underestimate the importance of the driver – crew chief relationship. For me, the ability to be able to trust and rely on my crew chief helps keep my mind focused. It allows me to be far more effective at what I’m doing knowing my crew chief has my back and is as invested as I am. That first race, I started 7th and finished 4th.” Not too shabby, especially for the first time out.
In the years since, Kyle has completely left his mark on the ARCA series. 2015 was a big year, with Kyle being named Rookie of the Year, as well as winning the Calypso Lemonade Short-Track Championship and The Bill France Four Crown Award for Cunningham Motorsports. He has accomplished a lot in a short period of time.
2016 was a more difficult year for Kyle as he had two race-ending collisions during the season. Despite the challenge of those difficulties, he managed to amass nine Top 10 finishes and seven Top 5 finishes in 15 races, including a 3rd place finish at the Herr’s Potato Chip 200 and a 4th place finish at the Scott 150. In the Madison ARCA 200, Kyle led the pack for 109 of the 200 laps and finished second.
Important to note: Kyle has scored a victory in every series in which he’s participated. Yet while all the accolades and victories are meaningful to Kyle, his love of racing comes full circle back to that first visit to the go-kart shop. “What I really love about racing,” he says, “is that it has become a big part of our family. I love doing this as a family deal and it’s what I hope we continue to do for a long time. Aside from all of the fun – and sometimes the stress – we share over this sport, it has definitely made our close-knit family even closer.” It’s these All-American, family-oriented values combined with his optimistic outlook, his focus on success, and his appreciation of those who support him that score Kyle Weatherman a first-place finish in the hearts of all his fans.